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Wednesday, 19 January, 2000, 00:10 GMT
Clinton plans assault on guns

Columbine aftermath The Columbine high school massacre shocked the US

President Bill Clinton has unveiled a multi-million dollar plan to fight gun crime and make the US the safest country in the world.

We want America to be the safest big country in the entire world
President Clinton
Mr Clinton is to ask Congress for $280m to spend on a series of initiatives, from developing 'smart gun' technology to funding media campaigns.

He said: "We are trying to send a message, an unambiguous message, to people who violate the law: If you commit crimes with guns or violate gun laws, you will pay a heavy price."

He was speaking in Boston, where the number of murders in 1999 was at a 38-year-low, in part because of the city's aggressive enforcement of firearm legislation.

Smart guns

The new measures include recruiting extra agents and inspectors for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and implementing a national scheme to track bullets to the guns that fired them through ballistics testing.

The administration has already announced a request for $10m to develop "smart guns" that fire only when held by their owners.
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  • Mr Clinton said: "We want America to be the safest big country in the entire world."

    A spate of high profile shootings last year ensured the debate of gun control was rarely off the government agenda.

    In Denver, Colorado, two teenagers killed 13 students and two teachers as they rampaged through Columbine high school.

    Clinton's plan
    Create the first nationally integrated ballistics testing system
    Fund local media campaigns
    Expand development of "smart gun" technology
    Hire 500 ATF agents and inspectors

    There have been other multiple shootings in Hawaii, Seattle, and Florida - all since November.

    After each, tougher gun control legislation was called for, and opposed by the powerful National Rifle Association.

    The NRA says there is enough gun legislation already, but it needs to be properly enforced.

    Spokesman Wayne LaPierre said some of the measures appeared to be adopting the NRA's approach but he added: "I want to look real hard at this to see that they have had a change of heart."

    The Clinton administration's campaign to strengthen gun laws has stalled over issues such as how to extend checks on people buying weapons at gun shows and whether handguns should have safety locks - but it will return to the House later this month.

    Mr Clinton used his Boston speech to urge Congress to pass the proposed legislation, which would also ban large ammunition clips from being imported.

    The new plans announced by Mr Clinton are for the year fiscal year starting in October 2000.

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    See also:
    30 Dec 99 |  Americas
    Five die in hotel shooting
    16 Sep 99 |  Americas
    Firearms: A civil liberties issue?
    30 Oct 99 |  Americas
    Analysis: What is the NRA?
    30 Apr 99 |  Crossing continents
    Feature: City Hall vs. the gun lobby in Chicago
    12 Feb 99 |  Americas
    Landmark ruling rocks gunmakers

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